The Gift of Giving, Pt. 1

I tuned in to the K-LOVE morning show while driving home and turned up the volume as Skip, Amy, and Kankelfritz (yes, that's his name) asked a question that I hadn't found any resolution to myself:  Are we supposed to tip at walk-up counter, fast-food restaurants?  It has become the new norm for a tip-line to show up on fast food receipts -- Taco Bell, Panera Bread, etc.  As I've signed my receipts at such establishment -- with the cashier waiting and watching -- a mental battle wages:  Is this tip expectation appropriate, or am I just being stingy?

Maybe you've had one of those stretches in which God is obviously trying to get a certain idea or message through to you, seasons when it seems like every circumstance and person you encounter happens to reiterate that much needed message.  For me, the recurring theme over the past week or so has revolved around giving, and K-LOVE's segment just added to the mix.  I've been challenged to be generous with an open hand and have been confronted with the realization that my heart defaults toward greed and grasping.  One of the quotes that I came across this week hit me right between the eyes:

The spirit of liberality is the spirit of heaven. This spirit finds its highest manifestation in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross...The cross of Calvary should appeal to the benevolence of every follower of the Saviour. The principle there illustrated is to give, give. (E. G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, 339)

If the "spirit of liberality" and the principles of giving characterizes the spirit of heaven, then how much of a stranger am I to that heavenly atmosphere?  Over the next few posts, I may not offer a definitive answer to the tip-line question, but please allow me to at least think and process "out loud" with you about the gift of giving.

Giving on Purpose

Back to the fast food tip-line.  Aside from the unsettled question of appropriateness, there are some things about that particular scenario that expose my heart's hangups about giving in general.  The unexpected nature of that line on my receipt causes me to feel hurried and put on the spot about the decision to be more generous.  I know I'm not the only one, because the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth about avoiding those very same dynamics.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7, NKJV

Being asked (or expected) to give when not previously planning to give can turn one's giving into a response of guilt and obligation rather than joy and dedication.  Whether it's giving more at a fast food restaurant, donating a dollar at the grocery checkout, or deciding what to place in the offering plate at church, here's a simple, practical principle:

Generosity that is both genuine and cheerful comes from generosity that is purposeful.

This isn't to criticize those restaurants, stores, or churches that ask of us, but I hope we can see the need to make the choice to be generous apart from and before the moment of request as much as it is within our power.  The kind of cheerful giving that God seeks is one that gives out of intentionality and purpose, not heartless impulse and pressure.

And while we've been talking in this post about giving of our financial resources, the principle applies more broadly to opportunities we have to give of ourselves across the board -- our time, our space, our effort, etc.  Anytime we have opportunity to invest ourselves for the sake of someone or something else, we typically find ourselves less cheerful about that investment when there's less time to prepare for it.  In the realm of church ministries, the more volunteers are able to prepare and purpose in their heart about their gift of service, the less grudging they are in the end.  Think about Jesus, the greatest Giver known to the entire universe.  His "unspeakable gift" (2 Cor. 9:15, KJV) was not a whim.  He didn't choose to give His life as a ransom for many under the pressure of humanity's need in the heat of the moment as it were.  His self-sacrificing gift was planned "from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8, NKJV).

In following the example of Jesus, let us not just feel a greater responsibility to give.  Let's step back and follow Jesus' example of planning and preparing to give, of purposing in our hearts to open our hands to the needs and opportunities we are already aware of.